Edinburgh, a beautifully picturesque town embedded into it’s landscape. A medieval castle appearing as if it pushed up from the lush green and rocky ground, pouring itself out onto the road that tumbles downhill with colorful shopfronts lining the stone streets, landing you at the foot of a palace. The old town takes you back in time giving the city a duality of charm and history with modern touches.
Scottish novelist Robert Louis Stevenson described it perfectly as “Half a capital and half a country town, the whole city leads a double existence; it has long trances of the one and flashes of the other; like the king of the Black Isles, it is half alive and half a monumental marble.”
1. Take a Hike
Holyrood Park is right at the end of the Royal Mile (the city’s high road) and is an easily accessible 600+ acre park with the famous feature being Arthur’s Seat. An extinct volcano that was eroded by a glacier, the series of hills tower over the city and was the sight of an old fort protecting the city. Arthur’s Seat offers a hike to panoramic views Edinburgh in all of it’s splendor. Just like any good attraction, Arthur’s Seat is linked to mystery, mythology and legend. In the mid 1800’s there was an archeological discovery of 17 miniature coffins that are still a puzzle today. It is described in Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein as well as being rumored that it was the site of Camelot, including many other stories are attached to the origin of its name.
Let’s face it, I’m a sucker for a good “pano shot” so I decided to take an early am run down the mile from the castle through the park and up the hill hopefully making it in time for some great early morning shots of the city. Without a coat. In a tank top. In the rain. Oh you silly, silly American girl. By the time I got to the summit the wind was whipping and I was drenched with sweaty beads of rain water dripping down my face. The view was worth the cold wind burn and it was early enough in the morning that no one else was around (probably because the weather was so horrible and I was the only idiot outside) so I had the peak all to myself as I sat and watched the fog clear over the city.
Click for a MAP of the park
2. Check out Parliament
I’m originally from Pittsburgh and therefore share a Scottish connection through Andrew Carnegie so it was totally serendipitous that an Andy Warhol exhibit was being featured at the Parliament building while I was in town, which no true Pittsburgher could pass up.
The building, an architectural prize winning design, was not without some controversy in the beginning based on its innovative aesthetic. It sticks out as a modern building amongst the older architecture. There are free building tours Mondays, Fridays and Saturdays as well as a separate art tour to see the wonderful installations in the building and is worth a quick peek.
Look for opportunities for tours, events & visits HERE
3. Whiskey Tasting
You should know that I’m a fan of what I like to call the “3 W’s”, Water, Wine and Whisky and luckily the Scottish have some experience with distilling the latter. There are dozens of Whiskey Tasting Tours or Distillery Tours throughout the country but if you decide to wet your whistle in Edinburgh right near the Castle is The Scotch Whiskey Experience. You’ll see a sea of Scotch Whiskeys as you tour the world’s largest whiskey collection and learn about all the different regions and flavors in the country. Admission includes a tour along with a dram as a treat at the end.
4. Tour the Castle
The massive rock at the top of the Royal Mile sits the stronghold of the city who’s timeline dates back to 900 BC. It was a home for monarchs, a military fortress and now a museum, the tour leads you through the Great Hall, Royal Jewels, the Chapel and the Batteries.
5. Head to a Museum
The Scottish National Gallery is free and houses an impressive collection of some beautiful works of art. They have a great impressionist exhibit, and an interesting collection of Scottish history and artists. Be sure on a rainy day to check out the Modern Art Museum and the Portrait Gallery and if you have time the Royal Scottish Academy is a quiet contemporary museum.
6. Climb a Monument
Only 287 steps come between you and the top of the monument dedicate to Sir Walter Scott. It is the largest monument in the world that pays homage to a writer and offers a great view of the city scape from the center of town. Not a fan of heights or teeny tiny winding stairways? Take a virtual tour HERE.
7. Shop the Royal Mile
The Royal Mile is the main road that runs through the center of town full of shops, pubs and restaurants. It is a perfect place to pick up souvenirs, soak up local culture and take in some epic people watching. People have inhabited the castle hill for over 7000 years and by the mid 1600’s there were over 70,000 living on the Royal Mile with houses so many stories high there could be hundreds of people in one block and families sharing just one room. It wasn’t until the 1800’s that street cleaning was introduced and more modern restorations were organized.
Is the street a mile long? Naturally that was a question I had when I was window shopping one afternoon. A quick trusty google search revealed that it’s actually a “Scots Mile” which is an antiquated form a measurement and that the Royal Mile was the standard for the measurement.
Follow me down the nerdy rabbit hole and you can read more HERE about obsolete measurements along with some other antiquated scottish scales.
8. Get Inspired
I went for afternoon tea one day to the Elephant Room, where JK Rowling and many other famous authors have placed pen to paper. Come for a tea, a snack and maybe spark some creative energy.
There are so many interesting streets to explore, pubs to frequent and activities to attend that Edinburgh is truly a city for anyone so start out with a few of my favorite things to get your adventure going. Planning a visit and want more ideas? Here is another site to get more ideas: This is Edinburgh